Fred Clark at Slacktivist, has once again taken on the burden of reading the Left Behind novels so that we don't have to. He's already worked his way through Left Behind and Tribulation Force and has now begun the third novel, Nicolae. Poor, poor man!
The key point of this first installment is, I think, embodied in this excerpt:
LaHaye can’t imagine changing his prophecies to make them even remotely possible in this world, so instead he changes this world into one in which his prophecies might have a chance. Sometimes this requires a massive revision of the structure and function of institutions like the UN. Other times it involves something even more radical — such as rewriting human nature to eliminate parental affection, national pride and religious devotion.
The world of these books bears some resemblance to our world — but only at the most superficial level. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of familiarity due to all the recognizable names and places. You recognize words like “Chicago” or “Israel” or “United Nations” and assume you know what they mean here. Don’t be fooled. The world of Left Behind is not our world. It is an alien universe inhabited by alien creatures and ruled by an alien god.
But Fred's real accomplishment has never simply been to tolerate a series of abysmally bad novels. I can only assume he's been able to do that by building up a tolerance over time through taking them in small doses. No, his real accomplishment is in using these truly terrible books to comment in a profound way on the state of evangelical Christianity, the invalidity of the premillenial dispensationalist worldview the books represent, and the difference between the "Real True" Christianity that they espouse and a Christianity rooted more solidly in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, and the best theological traditions of the church.
It is a genuine work of alchemy to transform texts as bad as these into something that one can learn from, and Fred deserves a great deal of credit for taking on the challenge, and for doing it so well.